Delaware Government: Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting 25 August, 2007Posted by David Anderson in Uncategorized.
Next year term limits mercifully mandate we find new leadership. It is time for a review of our successes and failures so we can map our course for the future.
Unemployment is low. The state is not in any crisis. We have moderate crime and foreclosures and poverty are not worse than average. We have made some gains in education such as in reading. Property taxes are still some of the lowest in the region and we still have no state sales tax. Income taxes are stable. Tourism is stable. We have a healthy rainy day fund. Our bond rating is high. We are continuing some of the positive trends from the last 30 years.
High infant mortality rates are a plague on our state. We don’t even seem to have a handle on the causes. Let alone have a plan of action. We have an exploding prison population—eight highest incarceration rate in the nation. We have several challenges with the deterioration of our cities and towns. Downtown areas are dying. Wilmington is facing crime problems a crisis of confidence. In spite of relatively high education spending and the fact we are 10 years into our reform plan, we have modest results. The drop out rate is too high. We have too high of an illegitimacy rate. A growing population is starting to put pressure on rural infrastructure. Housing costs are such that on an average wage a person cannot afford to rent an average apartment and only 35% of homes for sale are affordable to those making median income. In other words, the local working people are being priced out of the housing market. The mergers of the banking industry have changed the dynamic. We can no longer count on new banking jobs in fact we hope not to lose too many more of the ones we have.
The transportation trust fund has been poorly managed under this administration. Money intended for transportation projects has been siphoned off resulting in a huge short fall. The band aid fix offered no reforms; just higher fees we hope won’t be mismanaged.
Livable Delaware hasn’t made us more livable. It imposes a failed land use strategy which pressures us to violate property rights and discourages the revival of our cities and the building of affordable housing. It is causing an explosion of exurbia.
Power infrastructure issues had been kicked down the line and only because of General Assembly leadership are we starting to address it. We still have no strategy for consumer choice and adequate, affordable local power.
We are actually going backward in some respects when it comes to education. We are trying to impose unnecessary regulations on charter schools such as prevailing wage and dozens of other mandates to make them like the schools we are trying to escape. Test scores are stagnant. DOE regulations are forcing schools to waste money which could be in the classroom. School districts are not allowed to build adequately for future growth and are forced to go back to referendum every few years to fund projects which should have been covered under the previous expansion. Alternative schools are under-funded.
We have not reformed sentencing guidelines adequately. Our prisons are understaffed. We have no plan to reform petty criminals before they become career criminals. We are imposing barriers against people reforming their own lives such as regulations barring many ex-cons from hairdressing.
The Economic Development strategy has resulted in one of the slowest growing private job sector in America. The EDO is consumed with its own management soap opera. The milking of the franchise fee is starting to cost us business.
Medicaid reimbursement cuts are almost bankrupting St. Francis and forcing many doctors to stop seeing poor patients. Providers actually lose money on some procedures. Medicines are being denied patients by the program. So much for thinking the state is the solution for the health insurance problem. State health care facilities in the prisons and psychiatric hospital are wanting. The response to inquiries is to stonewall.
Overall, I think this state can do better. The current leadership has no strategy to deal with the coming storm represented by the challenges listed. They have failed in some of the areas they already have the tools with which to work.